This story is about love. There are many different kinds of love. The love of a parent for a child. The love of lovers for each other. The love of life. The love of friendship. Rubbish. There is only one kind of love... love. Pure, sweet, uncomplicated love. People complicate it by putting tags on it and trying to force it into boxes. In part this story is about the problems we store up for ourselves when we try to do that. Enjoy some tasters of what is in store for you tomorrow
Silver smiles his slow smile and takes me by the hand. I know from the look in his eyes where he’s leading me and I’m in no way unwilling to follow. He tows me across the landing and into the bathroom. Then he closes the door. He turns on the shower, then spins so quickly he takes me completely by surprise as he slams me into the door, pinning me with his body.
“Careful.” I gasp. “I’m fragile. I break easily.”
“If that was true, you’d have been in pieces by now.”
“Who says I’m not?”
It isn’t often I allow him to use his skills; the skills that were beaten, tortured and conditioned into him, during his time as a slave. It took a while to realise why he’s such a different person when he’s making love to me, but when I did it scared me. For such a long time he was just an object, a possession to be bought and sold. For a long time he existed only to please and the only thing he had to give was his body. I’ve been trying to teach him self-worth, that his body is his own and no one has a right to demand anything from him.
Sometimes, when he’s pleasuring me I catch a look in his eyes, a look that makes me shiver. I know there’ve been times, many times, when his conditioning has overtaken him. Times when he’s bound again by that compulsion to please, to give everything, not because he wants to but because he has to. It wasn’t that he felt compelled by anything on the outside... this compulsion’s hardwired into him and it’s going to take a long time to completely put it to rest.
Very early on, I tried to teach him a different way, that’s as much about accepting in as giving out. He finds it hard to receive anything, even more so during love-making. He still takes control but I’m slowly and gently coaxing him into giving it up, to simply let his body experience and feel without analysis or direction.
It’s hard to know where to draw the line. I want him to be spontaneous, to have respect for himself, to be more relaxed and less... precise and controlled. But I can’t demand it. I can’t tell him what to do or how to do it. If I do, I’ll be no better than they were. He has to find his own path.
Sometimes, when he’s very determined, he sweeps all my resistance away. This time I don’t have time to put up any resistance at all. Before I know what’s happening, Silver’s stripped both of us and we’re naked.
I lean against the door for support as, with his hands mouth and eyes, he plays my body like a finely tuned instrument. Before he even touches me below the waist I find myself dangerously close to the end.
“Silver I... I...”
“I know.” He whispers into my ear, making me shiver. He always knows, to the second, always. Taking my hand, he leads me into the shower and allows me to rub shampoo into his hair. This has been one of my favourite occupations since the day we met. There’s something about running soapy fingers through his silky locks that’s so erotic it makes me hard just to think about it.
When I really can’t find any excuse to keep massaging his head any more, I move close and spoon him, licking the water from his neck. I feel the shudder that passes through him and smile. He isn’t the only one who can play these games, even though I’m an amateur compared to him.
I run hands slick with soap, over the soft curves of his body. He leans against me and lets his head fall back onto my shoulder so the water is running over his chest. I turn my head to meet his lips, while my hand follows the water down. The groan that escapes him is one of pure pleasure and that pleases me.
Still kissing him, I pull him close against me and slide my hands up and down his body, feeling it tremble under my fingers. I close my eyes and let my fingers wander wherever they want. They trace the slight ridges of the scars on his chest and abdomen. They circle his nipples. They follow the hardness of his muscles, the soft curve of his hip.
I hear the speed of his breathing increase and feel the thump of his heart. It plays in tune with mine. Breaking free of my lips he whispers, “Please, let me please you. Please...”
Sam leads us through one of the doors leading off the main hallway and through into another room at the back. It’s a small room, and quite dark apart from the strip lights that surmount all the paintings. They all have the same, somewhat ethereal, quality, which is the reason for the subdued lighting, I suppose.
Silver steps over the threshold and freezes. His eyes flicker over the walls but he seems totally incapable of movement or speech. Not so Sandi. Rushing into the room, she flits from painting to painting, making exclamations of wonder and delight.
“Ooh.” She breathes. “They’re wonderful. I’ve never seen them before, they must be new. They’re so delicate, so beautiful. Wow, this one’s wild. The colours. I wonder how the artist managed to get the hair to look so real... they have an amazing eye for detail.” She turns to Silver, with a smile. “That’s why my paintings are so big... because I don’t.”
When she sees his frozen expression, her smile fades. “Is everything alright? Don’t you like the paintings? Do you feel faint or something? It’s quite stuffy in here. There were chairs in that last room. Do you need to sit down?”
Barely registering her, Silver shakes his head. He moves... no glides across the room, to gently brush one of the paintings with his fingers.
“You really should stop doing that, you know. I was fine with it but not every artist likes to have their canvasses touched. If lots of people do it then it wears off the paint. The last thing you want is an angry artist chasing you out of the building.”
Silver turns, with a confused expression on his face and barely glances at her. This time, he only has eyes for me. “You? You did this?”
I smile and nod. “Sam helped.” I can’t say any more because suddenly my arms are full of Silver and he’s taken my breath away. He holds tight and I can feel his heart thudding. He’s shaking and I really hope it’s because he’s pleased.
“Am I missing something?” Sandi pipes up, breaking the moment.
Swallowing, and visibly gathering himself, Silver raises his head from my shoulder and smiles at her. “They’re mine. I didn’t know they were here.”
“Yours?” Her eyes go wide. “You did these? You painted them?” He nods and smiles a little uncertainly. “Fuck! And I call myself an artist. These are amazing. You must be very proud.”
“Proud?” A strange look comes over his face, the smile fading.
“Yes, you’re so talented and now everyone’s going to see it. Everyone’s going to know what a fabulous artist you are. Wow. I’ve never got a full exhibition room to myself. I just get one here and there. And the big one, of course. That’s been here forever. I donated it to the museum so they’d display some of my smaller pieces. No one’s going to buy something on that scale from an unknown artist, but I thought it would raise my profile, get my name known.”
Silver is looking stunned, trying, unsuccessfully to follow her rapid speech. I have to admit I’m having a little trouble myself. The girl doesn’t stop to draw breath.
“Are you hoping to sell yours? Usually, it takes some time to get known and people will only buy known artists. It’s all very elitist. But these... you’re so good I don’t think it’ll matter, especially if they get a glimpse of what the artist looks like. You’re going to be in high demand on ‘the scene’ very soon my dear.”
“Don’t worry,” she adds at the look of horror in his eyes. “I’ll help you. It’s not as bad as it seems.”
But I know he isn’t horrified by the thought of ‘the scene’. That’s just too far outside his frame of reference to even register. He’s horrified at the thought of losing his paintings. He has no real concept of being paid for something he’s done. For most of his life he’s simply done what’s he’s told and been thankful for getting fed. The idea of someone giving him money for his work is so alien as to be beyond his comprehension. Not so the loss of a painting, though. He’s created them. They’re his children.
“River? Is that true? Are they going to take them away from me? I don’t want them to. I don’t want...”
“It’s alright, Silver. Don’t worry.” I say, speaking slowly and making sure he keeps eye contact so there’s absolutely no change of his fear leading him to the wrong conclusion. “No one’s going to take your paintings. This is an exhibition, a chance for people to come and see what a great artist you are. There’s a book in the corner people can write in to tell you what they think of your paintings and we can come in sometimes and read it. When the exhibition is finished you can keep the book and they’ll give all your paintings back.”
“Are you sure?”
He relaxes and smiles again. Sandi’s watching with a strange expression on her face.
“Don’t you want to sell your paintings? That’s weird.”
“It’s not weird, Sandi. Just because you want to sell your paintings doesn’t mean that every artist does. Silver paints for love, not money.”
“Maybe so. It’s still weird though. It’s as if... as if you don’t even know what it means.” She drifts across the floor and stops in front of him. He stares at her, mesmerised by the dark pools of her eyes. He pushes away from me and takes the hand she reaches out to him. For the longest time they look into each other’s eyes, until I’m just about ready to push her away physically.
“What happened to you?” Her voice is very soft but he hears.
“I got lost.”
“It... it was the hospital. My parents have been in an accident. They... they’re dead.”
“Oh, God. River I’m... I... don’t know what to say. It’s so terrible.”
“Yeah. I... wasn’t close to them, at least not for the last few years. They didn’t exactly disown me when I came out to them but they didn’t take it too well either.”
“Came out of what?”
I smile. I can’t help it. He’s so sweet. “’Coming out’ means telling people, usually people close to you, that you’re gay.”
“Oh.” I can see he doesn’t understand.
“There’re a lot of people who think it’s wrong, even evil for a man to love another man.”
“Why?” He looks really confused now. I sigh. I wish we’d never got into this conversation. It’s a wonder we’ve never had it before, but Silver’s so innocent, so accepting the whole concept of prejudice is alien to him. He’s kind of got his head round racial prejudice. Although, I don’t think he really understands the concept that one person could hurt another because of where they live or what colour their skin is. There’s no way he is going to be able to understand why they’d do it because of who we love.
“I can't really answer that. There are some, religious people, who say that it’s banned in the Bible and is vile and an abomination to God.”
“I’ve read the Bible. It isn’t very nice.”
“In some places it isn’t, no.”
“I don’t remember reading where it says that love is evil. Doesn’t it say that love is holy?”
“Only some kinds, it seems.”
“Silver,” I say gently, knowing what he’s like. “I’m sorry, but I don’t think I can have this conversation right now. I’ve got a lot on my mind.”
“I’m sorry, River. I know I get carried away. You must be feeling awful.”
“I am but... but that’s not all. My brother was in the car with them.”
“You have a brother?”
“Yes, he’s twelve.”
“Is he going to die too?”
“No. He... I don’t think he’s badly hurt but, with my parents gone, he’s alone.”
“But he can’t be, River. He’s the same age as I was… as Matthew was. You can't let something bad happen to him like it happened to me. Can’t you bring him home to live here, with us?”
My beautiful, beautiful boy keeps on surprising me. I was paralysed with pain and fear and Silver, ever the pragmatist, went straight to the heart of the problem and found a solution, without even trying.
An enormous crash from inside the house shocks me out of my funk and both Sam and I look up in shock. After a while Hester appears in the doorway and comes hurrying across the lawn towards us. She looks terribly pale and shocked.
“What do you mean? Nothing happened.”
She frowns. “Something must have happened. Something’s upset the hell out of the boy. He came rushing in, knocked the tray right out of my hands. He looks frantic, poor kid.”
I leap to my feet. Oh shit. Ben must have overheard us. “Where is he? Is he alright?”
“I don’t know hun. He headed off upstairs. Maybe he’s in Jake’s room. He didn’t look alright. He looked... You’d better go to him.”
“I will. Shit he must have heard. What a way to find out. Poor Ben.”
“Ben? It wasn’t Ben hun, it was Silver.”
She might as well have driven a stake through my heart, right here, right now. My legs can’t hold me anymore and I sit down suddenly, missing the chair and ending up on the floor.
“No.” The word is a choked whisper. I can’t comprehend, can’t think about what he might have heard. My mind is racing, trying to remember what I said. It wasn’t good... “I was just letting off steam. I didn’t mean it. I didn’t mean any of it. I was being weak. I needed to be weak, just for a minute. I didn’t mean it, Sam. You know I didn’t mean it.”
“It’s not me you should be telling, River.”
“River! Dad!” Jake comes tearing across the lawn. He skids to a halt panting. “There... there’s something wrong with Silver. He’s locked himself in the bathroom and I think he’s crying. He almost knocked me down the stairs. What’s happening?”
“Trying to talk to him through the door but he’s not listening.”
I try to get to my feet but I just can’t, my legs won’t hold me up because my mind is supplying me with a blinding replay of all the things I had said in my pain, my self pity. And Silver heard it. Maybe he heard it all. Oh God... what if he heard it all?